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SUCCESS STORIES // THE BITTENBENDERS

Like many kids her age, Krista Bittenbender, who recently turned 17, wishes her parents would loosen the reins a little. The Bittenbenders remain unswayed by her attempts to persuade them to lighten up.

" "Details' is a big word around here," says Krista. Her parents, Jeffrey and Virginia, both 44, nod in agreement.

When Krista goes out she has to tell her parents where she is going, with whom she is going and what they will be doing. They expect Krista to stay out of trouble.

Asked what happens when Krista breaks a rule, the Bittenbenders say they haven't had to deal with violations. Their daughter, who expects to graduate at the top of her class next year at Gulf High School, knows better than to break a rule.

Like other high achievers, Krista understands that her parents' rules and expectations exist for her own good. Still, she says, "If I were a parent, I don't think I'd be quite as strict."

"We can't be your best friends," Bittenbender replies. The Bittenbenders don't hesitate to say "no" to their daughter. It is not their job, they say, to win popularity contests with her.

"And we never thought we were here to entertain her," Mrs. Bittenbender adds. "We've never seen that as our role. We've always provided lots of things for her to be interested in."

They continued to attend school events when Krista was at Gulf Middle School and, like many other adolescents during those years, she wished they would go away.

"I think what bothered you most in eighth grade is that we were wanting to know who your friends were," Bittenbender says.

The Bittenbenders were prepared for whatever stage Krista was in.

"I have always sought out mothers of children who are successful and maybe just a couple of years older than Krista and asked, "Okay, when they were 16, what were they like,' " Mrs. Bittenbender says. "That has really been very helpful."

As a family, they often discuss school and the importance of good grades. Before she signs up for classes, Krista seeks her parents' input.

She plays on the school golf team, is president of the German Club and has a part-time job at the YMCA to help pay for car insurance. So that her parents can keep up with her, Krista posts a monthly schedule on the refrigerator.

Even though they keep a tight rein, the Bittenbenders allow Krista to freely express herself. Sitting close to her mother on the couch, with her father nearby, she debates with them on a few points regarding how strict she thinks they have been.

"There's some truth to that," Bittenbender concedes when Krista says that her parents have been overprotective.

On the other hand, in a few weeks Krista will travel to Germany for a month in a chaperoned group.

Her parents know the time fast approaches when she will go off to college; they trust her judgment. They know she acts responsibly and makes good choices.

"Details are going to be hard to get from there," Bittenbender says, "but I think we've prepared her well. She'll do fine."

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